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NRL: Three coaches that need a strong start

The 2023 NRL campaign has not even started but already there is talk about a number of coaches being under pressure.

There have been a couple of changes at the top ahead of the new NRL campaign with both Anthony Seibold and Cameron Ciraldo landing at Manly Sea Eagles and Canterbury Bulldogs respectively.

Seibold returns to the NRL with the Sea Eagles following the departure of long-serving Des Hasler during the close season. Ciraldo has been lured over to the Bulldogs from the Penrith Panthers where he was assistant to Ivan Cleary.

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Elsewhere Wayne Bennett also returns as a coach in the NRL with the Dolphins, who will embark on their inaugural season. Tim Sheens will be head coach of Wests Tigers, showing the ropes to assistants Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah before they are eventually handed the reins.

There is a certain amount of pressure on all the above coaches for varying reasons. However barring an absolute disaster they should be given a chance and should at least see the season out.

The same cannot be said for three coaches in particular, with many believing they are lucky to still be in a job. One thing is certain they all need a strong start or the axe could come down on them.

Let’s take a look at the three who are most vulnerable heading into the new season.

Anthony Griffin (St George Illawarra Dragons)

The 2023 NRL season is still a month away but there is already talk that Dragons coach Anthony Griffin is under pressure and could be the first to go. The Red V missed out on the top eight in 2022 and another season without finals footy could spell the end of his time at the club.

Reports have suggested that Griffin needs a strong start to the season and if he does not get one then the powers that be could make a call. However the 56-year-old says he is not feeling any pressure at all and told reporters he is enjoying one of the best off-seasons of his coaching career.

Even so they need to begin well and face a huge opening fixture in the NRL when they take on the Gold Coast Titans. Lose that and the pressure will be ramped up further.

The Dragons also face NRL new boys the Dolphins in the opening four games along with Cronulla Sharks and the Brisbane Broncos. They are a big four games for Griffin and the Dragons, who are priced at 11/4 to make finals.

Adam O’Brien (Newcastle Knights)

Adam O’Brien is another coach that needs a strong start. Saying that they did do that in 2022 winning their opening two games but went on to have a disastrous campaign.

They finished third from bottom on the ladder after winning just six of their 24 games, suffering some heavy defeats along the way. The McDonald Jones Stadium used to be a fortress but they even struggled to get results in front of their home fans when losing to the Bulldogs and Raiders just to name a couple.

O’Brien has had the backing of the powers that be and managed to keep his job last season, but their patience could start to wear thin if things do not improve.

It was not all doom and gloom in 2022 with superstar Kalyn Ponga penning a new long-term deal and he will need to step up and help O’Brien out in the season ahead. The Knights are priced at 5/1 to make the top eight.

Justin Holbrook (Gold Coast Titans)

Justin Holbrook guided the Titans to finals in 2021 so it was even more surprising to see them plummet down the ladder in 2022.

They also managed just six wins in the entire campaign, but again Holbrook managed to keep hold of his job. The Titans actually finished the season strongly when winning three of the last four games and that should at least give the fans hope for a brighter future.

Gold Coast begin the season with two big games when they take on teams they really need to be beating, Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra Dragons. Anything less and the knives could be out for Holbrook once again.

They are priced at 7/2 to make the top eight.

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